Thursday, November 29, 2007

Happy Belated Thanksgiving... and rental cars

Hello all-

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. We bounced around from NY to
Iowa, to Chicago to make sure to spend time with both of our
families. We played a lot of cards, ate a lot, etc. etc. Had fun,
but we're glad to be home now, and so is Sophie, who insists on
sniffing everything more than she usually does.

As I have been commuting back and forth a bunch lately, I've had the
pleasure to drive a number of different rental cars. Apparently when
I rent a compact and the website says "Dodge Neon or similar," that
means pretty much everything other than a Neon. Which is fine,
because I got one once last year in Seattle, and I don't much care
for them. Although it was bright metallic orange, which made it easy
to find in the parking lot.

People who have known me for a while know that I am into cars and
good design, and mostly, good execution. I've found over the past
few months that American cars seem to be designed by teenagers with
great ideas, but ones who don't know how to put them all together in
a cohesive package. Their designs are then passed along to bean
counters who try to make everything work on a budget, so you get some
nifty ideas placed into a car with icky plastic on the inside and
headrests that resemble toilet seats.

So here are my thoughts on the car's I've had the "pleasure" of
driving lately, in order of preference:

- Kia Spectra
Totally surprised by this car. It was probably the cheapest to
actually buy, but you'd never guess it. Small on the outside, but
comfy and a nice sized trunk. Actually had all of the amenities that
you'd want: power locks, mirrors, and doors, mp3 jack, and got decent
gas mileage. It was a little slow, due to it's lame transmission,
but really really nice fit and finish. Kia made nice choices to
concentrate on what makes it a good car, without investing in
expensive and whiz-bang gadgets, engines, and flash. Simple is better.

- Dodge Caliber
Nice little wagon that was most similar in form factor to my own
Mazda Protege5. Had lots of neat toys, but was built of cheap
plastic on the inside, so it just wasn't homey to be in very long.
And the headrests were like those squishy toilet seats with icky
vinyl covering.

- Nissan Sentra
Nice car, great gas mileage, nice fit and finish (although I didn't
really care for the styling). However, no power mirrors, and while
it did have power locks, it didn't have a fob and the key only locked
and unlocked the driver's side door, you had to use the button on the
inside for the rest, so it was a pain to get stuff out of the back
seat and then lock the doors, because you had to have both doors open
and walk around them or open and close them in a tight parking spot.

- PT Cruiser
Ughh... I'd put this dead last if the form factor weren't as suited
to my needs as it is. I like the space, I like the versatility, but
honestly, the smaller Caliber can fit more stuff. You can stack
stuff high in the back, but not wide. My light stands fit lengthwise
in the tiny Kia, but not in here. And all of the neat ideas that it
has in styling are just a wee over-done and cheap cheap cheap, and it
has those dumb headrests like the Caliber. Worst of all, it has the
most anemic engine that, despite it's complete lack of power, slurps
gas like crazy.

- Chevy Cobalt
- Ick. I just can't understand why people sell a car that has
absolutely every gadget - tire sensors, mp3 jacks, nice stereos,
buttons on the steering wheel, outside temperature, etc. etc. but now
power locks, mirrors, or windows. I've gotten ones that do have
them, but it doesn't really help the car much, because with the coupe
(which is nearly inevitable), you can't see behind you, the brakes
stink, and the handling is floppy.

In summation - run for the Kia when given an option. It's a car
you'd actually consider owning. Aside from that, I have been able to
understand why these cars are rental cars, because (especially how
they're configured) I can't figure out who'd buy them.

Rant ending now...


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dumb luck, Friendly People, and Hundred Dollar Bills

So this week I was back in Chicago again doing some photography for
the great folks at First Bank and Trust. I was rolled into a website
redesign project by my good friends George and Tif at
(who's wedding I photographed last year).

Basically, we went around to all of their five branches and notable
places in the communities that they serve. While absolutely frigid
and windy, we lucked out with spectacular (looking) weather and many
happy accidents, like landscaper's leaf blowers blowing dust that
looked like early morning fog, and the sunset being perfectly
reflected in the windows of Skokie's Northlight Theatre. Two minutes
later, it was gone.

The people at First Bank were beyond cooperative, especially
considering that they were going through their yearly review with the
Federal Bank while we were shooting. I also had the bizarre
experience of walking up to a teller and asking her to hand us a wad
of cash, and after she happily handed a stack of hundred dollar bills
to Tif (playing hand model), I played back the scene in my mind and
realized just how it could have been taken the wrong way if she
didn't have the right sense of humor.

Thanks to Tif, Jill, Duncan, and Simon for braving the cold with me,
and making this a really refreshing commercial assignment.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Snaps around the neighborhood and home...

Hello all-

I spent some time this week walking around the house and the
neighborhood, and I thought I'd share some snaps with you. I hope
you enjoy them!


Friday, November 2, 2007

Back home...

Hello all...

back again in NY. Had a great weekend in Chicago. Took some photos
of my friend Orlando with his dog Khan.

Had an interesting Halloween - although not as many people came over
as I expected.

Anywho, enjoy!